But what does it mean to be a highly sensitive person? According to Aron's research, HSPs make up the 15-20 percent of the population who have especially sensitive nervous systems. This is a neutral trait, which means it's biological and that it's neither good nor bad. A few common characteristics of HSPs include the following:
- are aware of subtleties in their environment
- are effected by other people's moods
- need alone time/quiet time each day
- are easily overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, loud noises, coarse fabrics, etc.
- have a rich, complex inner life
- are easily startled
- avoid violent movies or TV shows
- become overstimulated by too much activity around them
- have a strong reaction to physical hunger
- enjoy fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art
- become nervous when being observed performing a task
- were labeled shy or sensitive by teachers or parents
- may find new or unfamiliar experiences uncomfortable
Being a highly sensitive person can truly be a gift---many of the most positively influential people in history have been HSPs, but this trait requires us to take especially good care of ourselves. Ideally HSPs can strike the proper balance between protecting themselves from overwhelm and fully engaging in life. If you'd like to learn more, please check out the highly regarded work of Dr. Elaine Aron.